Tonight we headed over, and there were people already playing, a first for us. As we walked in, one player (I think the others called him "Frank") was finishing up the table at the end of a game. You know how they tell you never to bet against a guy who brings his own cue? Frank had two; one for breaking, one for shooting. In a tooled leather case.
I asked if BB and I could have the next game. Frank, who was probably about mid-fifties, with a squint and a golf cap, gave us a little bit of a hard time, but said sure, we could jump in. I assured him we wouldn't be long.
Frank's opponents were essentially frat boys. Early twenties, in shorts and big shoes. One guy had his sleeveless shirt slit down to the hem on both sides. They ignored BB and I as we set up the rack and made our shots, but still, the kid was nervous with this many people around. Heck, so was I. Frank was clearly very good, and I was embarassed at my poor performance. As the game progressed, though, he started giving BB pointers. "Make your front hand steady. Don't be loose." "Too much stick between you and the ball." He was gentle with his suggestions, not putting him down or making him feel foolish. By the end of the game, BB was shooting better, and was more relaxed. The frat boys mostly ignored us.
The last few shots seemed to take forever. On my final ball, I sank the 11 and then rebounded and put the 8 in. A loss. Frank got quite a laugh out of that. I thanked him for his time and advice, and so did BB
We decided to stick around and watch them play for awhile.
Frank was playing cutthroat with two frat boys at a time. The first game, the boys never touched the table. Frank sank a ball on the break, then proceeded to drop the other guys' balls one after another. Break, nine shots, game over. Every shot was precise, and he knew where the ball would be before he lined up the next one. He had a rhythm and a smooth control that was a joy to watch. BB was in awe.
The frat boys were grumbling. "We never get to take a shot. Give us a chance." Frank laughed. He laughed a lot, in fact. Just about every sentence he said all evening ended with a chuckle.
On the second game, he flubbed the break, so the frat boys got to try. One had almost no skill, the other had some control, but neither could match Frank. It wasn't long before he was back on the stick and running things again, but it was tougher with a spread table, so this game lasted a little longer.
The frat boys kept commenting. "It's not fair!" said one, as if he were three years old. They made offhand comments about how "lucky" Frank was. How Frank was "cheating". Frank kept laughing, kept bantering lightly back, and kept sinking their balls. Click. Click. Click.
We left after that game, and on the walk home I got to talk to BB about what he observed. He's not played much sport, and his soccer team's discussions on sportsmanship were pretty much limited to making sure they said "Good Game" to the other guys at the end of the match. This was a perfect opportunity to talk about losing graciously and admitting defeat.
Those boys were playing a master. They could have been asking him how he did what he did, taking pointers and learning from him. He was willing to show BB how he did it. I'm sure he would have done the same for them. Instead, they took the opportunity and made it an ugly thing. What a shame.